Graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Cairo, Egypt, depicting a woman fighting against sexual harassment. (c) Amnesty International
Ahmed Ezz, a mechanical engineer, talks about his voluntary work with Operation Anti-Sexual Harrassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), an activist organization based in Cairo, Egypt, known for intervening in sexual assaults by mobs in Tahrir Square.
When people find out that a woman has been sexually harassed and assaulted, their first reaction is “what was she wearing?”. They always lay the blame on the women themselves. I’ve witnessed this so many times.
It is not safe at all in Cairo for women and girls. Their freedom of movement is constantly constrained. Some avoid using the metro, and spend more money on taking taxis or multiple buses, simply to minimize the risk of harassment and assault. If women and girls complain about sexual harassment, people around them just try to calm them down, belittle their concerns or accuse them of unjustly pointing the fingers at harassers.
Is Earth F**Ked: At 2012 AGU Meeting, Scientists Consider Advocacy, Activism, Politics, and Getting Arrested.
Many of us have wondered at some point in almost precisely these terms: “Is Earth F**ked?” But it’s not the sort of frank query you expect an expert in geomorphology to pose to his colleagues as the title of a formal presentation at one of the world’s largest scientific gatherings.
Nestled among offerings such as “Bedrock Hillslopes to Deltas: New Insights Into Landscape Mechanics” and “Chemical Indicators of Pathways in the Water Cycle,” the question leapt off the pages of the schedule for the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. Brad Werner, a geophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the more than 20,000 Earth and atmospheric scientists who descended on downtown San Francisco this week to share their research on everything from Antarctic ice-sheet behavior to hurricane path modeling to earthquake forecasting. But he’s the only one whose presentation required the use of censorious asterisks. When the chairman of Werner’s panel announced the talk’s title on Wednesday, a titter ran through the audience at the naughtiness of it all.
Why shout out the blunt question on everyone’s mind? Werner explained at the outset of the presentation that it was inspired by friends who are depressed about the future of the planet. “Not so much depressed about all the good science that’s being done all over the world—a lot of it being presented here—about what the future holds,” he clarified, “but by the seeming inability to respond appropriately to it.”
As China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition begins in Beijing next month, the government’s treatment of high-profile critics such as the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo will invariably garner attention inside the country and abroad. The persecution of such dissidents certainly merits discussion, but it must not obscure a larger phenomenon: the emergence of widespread populist activism in China.
At first, Alison Klayman’s new documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,”seems to fit this perspective, by focusing on the singular work, political activism, and daily life of Ai Weiwei, the world-famous Beijing-based artist and outspoken government critic. In raising subjects that are usually airbrushed from the Chinese media, the film contains much that the Chinese leadership will dislike. It highlights Ai’s international celebrity and his ability to mobilize large numbers of people through social media, the naked brutality of the Chinese police, and the still-debilitating aftereffects of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
But “Never Sorry” does much more than call attention to the work of Ai and the well-known artists, writers, and critics he interacts with. The most poignant aspect of the documentary — and the one that senior Chinese leaders would find most alarming — is expressed by a woman who had volunteered with a project that Ai led to compile the names of schoolchildren who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when their shoddily constructed schools collapsed. She recalls how, when the authorities asked her whom she was working for, she replied, “We were all volunteers, there on our own. The way I see it, we weren’t there as anybody’s ‘people.’ “
The Chinese government does tolerate some state-dictated volunteerism; the Chinese Ministry of Internal Affairs had registered more than 10,000 civil society groups by 2011. When it serves the political interests of the Communist Party or the government, popular mobilizing is fine, as is the case with the periodic virulent anti-Japanese manifestations.
2012 Humanist of the Year Gloria Steinem sat down with the Humanist magazine at the 71st Annual Conference of the American Humanist Association, held June 7-10, 2012, in New Orleans. The following is an adapted version of that interview recorded on Friday, June 7. Previously solicited questions from leading secular women writers are noted herein. Steinem’s speech in acceptance of the Humanist of the Year award will be published in the November/December issue.
The Humanist: You’re being honored with the 2012 Humanist of the Year award. What led to you accepting this award from the American Humanist Association? Do you feel that your writing and activism as a feminist intersects with humanism?
Gloria Steinem: I always thought that “humanist” was a good word long before I understood that anyone thought it was a bad word. It seems to me that it means you believe in the great potential and the best of human beings, so I didn’t have to overcome anything to accept this award; it seemed an unmitigated honor. And since the ultra-right wing has tried so hard to make it a bad word— “humanist” has been demonized in much the same way that the word “feminist” has—it seemed especially important to identify as humanist and support humanist groups. This is the only national group I know of, but I run into local ones, too.
The Humanist: So let’s talk a little about women in secularism. I attended the first-ever Women in Secularism conference in May, and I’m wondering if it would surprise you to learn that there are problems with sexist behavior within the secular movement, including in online forums and at conferences.
Steinem: No, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that there is bias and sexism everywhere, just like there are problems of racism and homophobia stemming from the whole notion that we’re arranged in a hierarchy, that we’re ranked rather than linked. I think we’ve learned that we have to contend with these divisions everywhere.
By Sady Doyle - - in These Times
In fact, Bluhm is not a little girl who just got mad about Seventeen and happened to start a massive protest. She’s a blogger for SPARK Summit, a youth activism organization run by adults. Which is to say: the story of the Seventeen protest is not the story of Julia Bluhm taking action, but the story of an established organization taking action through one of its representatives, Julia Bluhm. Here is how SPARK Summit describes itself, on its website:
SPARK is a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media.
And here is how Julia Bluhm describes herself, in her Change.org profile, from whence she launched the petition:
As a feminist, [Bluhm] not only wants to put a stop to sexualization and stereotypes of girls in the media, but also to negative stereotypes of ballet dancers.
Right below that, there’s a description of her connection to SPARK. This isn’t to rob Bluhm of credit; she did good work. But she didn’t do it alone, and to the extent that the Seventeen protest is being reported as Julia Bluhm’s protest, it’s being misreported.
And that misrepresentation is both sentimental and sloppy. Bluhm’s victory statement specifically directs credit, and supporters, back to other SPARK initiatives: “This is a huge victory, and I’m so unbelievably happy. Another petition is being started by SPARK activists Emma and Carina, targeting Teen Vogue.” And it signs off with a variation on the organization’s slogan: “We are sparking a change!”
If I sound crabby: Well, I am, a bit. But the media’s tendency to sentimentalize and simplify activism—and, particularly, its tendency to pick out lone heroes or heroines, normal people granted exceptional powers to fight evil—is an alarming one. A responsible account of social change should not, generally speaking, have the same plot as the first Spider-Man movie. And not only because this sort of thinking is trite, or lazy: Because it misrepresents the basic principles by which activism works.
Men and women from around the state gathered in Montpelier to fight what’s been called ‘the war on women’. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders let out this battle cry, “we have made significant progress in this country and the message of today is we are not going backwards!”
Senator Sanders told the women of Vermont he’s ready to start a war, but he needs women to man the front lines. “Vermont will be remembered as the state that led this country toward gender equality and the rights of all people, that is our mission and that is a goal in which we will succeed” Sanders said.
Sanders spoke at the women unite rally on the capitol steps Saturday. Every state in the nation held a rally to fight back against what’s been deemed ‘the war on women’ by politicians. Former Governor Madeline Kunin said “I never thought that I would be speaking out in 2012 for the right to have access to contraception.” Kunin thanked Rush Limbaugh, oddly enough, for bringing women to activism. The talk show host infamously called law school student Sandra Fluke a prostitute and a slut for supporting women’s access to contraception. “Rush Limbaugh helped ignite this debate and Sandra Fluke had the courage to fight back” Kunin said. The former governor says Vermonters are lucky because the state enjoys an equal rights mentality — unlike our ‘sisters’ as she calls them in other states. She told the women “we have to speak out not only for us but for them because the future, not only of Vermont, but of this country is at stake.”
Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to ‘take one more step out of your comfort zone’ as an inspiration, saying, ‘It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ‘em awake and let ‘em know what is really going on in this world.’
In this piece from The New Republic, writer Suzy Hansen profiles Fethullah Gülen, a religious leader operating schools and non-profits globally and portrayed as a “Turkish Billy Graham:”
The leader of what is arguably the world’s most successful Islamic movement lives in a tiny Pennsylvania town called Saylorsburg, at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, otherwise known as “the Camp.” The Camp consists of a series of houses, a community center, a pond, and some tranquil, woodsy space for strolling. From this Poconos enclave—which resembles a resort more than the headquarters of a worldwide religious, social, and political movement—Fethullah Gülen, a 69-year-old Turkish bachelor with a white moustache, wide nose, and gentle, sad expression, leads perhaps five million followers who, in his spirit if not his name, operate schools, universities, corporations, nonprofits, and media organs around the globe.
Last spring, I visited the center and was warmly shepherded around by Bekir Aksoy, the president of the Camp. Just past a checkpoint, a portly Turkish man in a “Sopranos”-esque tracksuit was stretching, preparing for a jog. Along a road leading to the pond, we encountered a group composed mostly of Turkish men who had come from Japan to see Hocaefendi, as Gülen is respectfully called by his followers; they had been escorted onto the premises by a Columbia University student in a white Mercedes. The guest of honor for the day was a professor from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He was fishing for trout.
The three-story building where Gülen lives resembles a cozy ski lodge. The first floor features a large, sunny breakfast room with a number of long tables. Three men sat at these tables, quietly talking. One greeted me and introduced himself. He was a journalist for a once-admired, now-defunct, Turkish political magazine; the others were Turkish businessmen.
Upstairs, on the hushed second floor, about 15 young men sat on divans against the windows and on the carpeted floors, reading. One had a laptop; he looked up and smiled, as did some others, but a few scowled at me. We were clearly disturbing them. When a young man suddenly stood up and whispered something to Aksoy, I could have sworn he was complaining about my presence. Aksoy seemed to admonish him. Later, I asked, “Was that young man upset that I was there?” “Our people do not complain,” Aksoy replied. “They obey commands completely.”
Fethullah Gülen lives on the third floor of the lodge, but I hadn’t come expecting to see him. Gülen is ill, I was told, and only sees journalists when he has something specific to say. He stays abreast of the news through summaries that are provided to him each day by assistants. Sometimes, these assistants, fearful of upsetting him—Gülen is famously sensitive—try to shield him from the harshest events. Yet despite his limited contact with the world, a sense of his wisdom persists. “He knows everything,” Aksoy told me.
In a 2008 online poll devised by the British magazine Prospect and the American magazine Foreign Policy, Gülen was voted the most significant intellectual in the world. Graham Fuller, a former CIA agent and the author of several books on political Islam, says that Gülen is leading “one of the most important movements in the Muslim world today.” Yet there is much about him that is not known. One of the biggest mysteries is how much sway he holds over his followers. Some visit Pennsylvania as much as once a month; what do they want from their visits? At the end of my tour, as Aksoy was driving me back to a McDonald’s near the Camp where I had left my car, I asked him whether Gülen tells people what to do.
The entire article is only available to subscribers, and the portion available tells little about Gulen. Nevertheless, the idea of a mainstream Muslim leader within the West is very tantalizing.